Using Economic Methods Evaluatively

Julian King
  • American Journal of Evaluation, July 2016, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1098214016641211

What is it about?

Economic evaluation offers a powerful set of methods (such as Cost-Benefit Analysis) for considering the costs and consequences of resource allocation decisions. Evaluators should use these methods more. However, economic evaluation, on its own, is not always enough to provide a comprehensive assessment of value for money. Explicit evaluative reasoning offers a way to make holistic evaluative judgments taking economic and other considerations into account.

Why is it important?

As evaluators, we are often asked to determine whether policies and programs provide 'value for money'. However, there is no universally accepted definition of what this means or how it should be evaluated. There are no gold standards in evaluation, and Cost-Benefit Analysis is not the only, or necessarily the best, way to determine value for money. With increased interest globally in social enterprise, impact investing, and social impact bonds, the search is on to find valid, credible, useful ways to determine the impact and value of social investments.


Julian King
University of Melbourne

In my public policy consulting practice, my colleagues and I routinely draw on evaluation-specific methodology as well as methods of economic evaluation. By combining these approaches we have been able to design context-sensitive evaluations using a mix of quantitative and qualitative evidence. What we have lacked is an explicit theoretical foundation for this work. This paper represents a milestone in my ongoing research to establish this foundation.

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